We are very recently back from 16 dinners (and lunches — it was difficult!) — in Paris, and deep in Burgundy & Jura. I may post later about our seven days of Paris dining. (Preview: So glad we opted for dinner at Le Clarence — it was, surprisingly and truly “fun” — a singular experience.)
If there is interest in the deep countryside venues, and when I have time, I might post about those experiences (and another recent similar trip to Normandy) here.
But first, an observation about “l’addition” presented to us at the conclusion of two very recent Paris dinners:
At both Mer & Coquillage (our second visit, after a nice lunch this past July — lovely room, convivial place, and the sole meuniere was again super), and then again at Pétrelle (our first visit — lovely dining, as billed it’s a romantic feel, with professional and very friendly service), the bill contained a prominent printed passage, in English, asking whether we wished to leave a “tip for the team,” or words to that effect.
We’ve never seen this over many hundreds of restaurant meals in France. We are quite aware of the law and general norms relating to the issue of such tips. I’m doubting that French patrons, or those whose French is better than ours, are receiving such notices? Perhaps some payment systems are programmed print this message when presented with a non/French (or, specifically, American) credit card?
Anyway, have others noticed this, and what do we think about it?
It’s definitely not limited to France, nor is it a new phenomenon. I dined with US friends at an Alsatian restaurant in Berlin well over a decade ago, and when we received our separate bills, theirs had a “service not included” line, whereas mine did not.
I actually was doing the menu for the place at the time, but still called out the manager for this shady practice, who tried to charm his way out of it by basically asking what’s wrong about a little extra tip?
Other countries have caught on just how tip-happy US citizens traveling abroad are & are apparently fine exploiting the fact.
I seem to recall that there was a thread about this practice some years back on Chow Hound.
In France, the inclusion of the service charge is mandated by law. Is that the case in Germany?
It’s included. And it should say as much on the menu.
I just looked through all of our itemized restaurant receipts for the last 12 days and have found no similar language on any of them. We will be at Petrelle on Friday so we’ll see what happens then. And if it does appear…?
A similarish situation in the UK, where we have a mix of those places where a service charge is added to the bill and those where old fashioned cash tipping might be expected. Both are always regarded as discretionary and, if a service charge is to be added, then it be be stated on the menu and clearly shown on the bill.
What does happen , on occasion, is that a service charge will be added and then the bill has an open tip line. It happened to us in a mini-chain restaurant only last week. It’s an entirely disreputable practice and can only be considered as an attempt to scam unwary customers into effectively tipping twice.
I think the most blatant example of this attempt to scam the unwary was the restaurant at the Sofitel hotel at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, with a service charge added AND a tip line left open. Blatant in that T5 is the main British Airways terminal for flights to/from the States so lots of Yanks to sucker. And blatant because Sofitel is French owned so tipping on this level is not a not a cultural thing for them.
It occurs to me that your question might be better posed to the offending restaurant. i.e., you might write Petrelle and simply describe your delight with their ambiance, food and hospitality and how their including the tip provision on the tab was not only astonishing but cast a shadow over what had been a perfect evening.
I’ve seen pour boire prompts when I’ve paid by credit card, but I’m blanking one whether this was in Chamonix in 2015 or in Quebec more recently.
Of course, in Quebec, tipping is North American-style.
In France , I usually treat the mandated Service charge the way I treat it in Germany, and then round up with pour boire /trinkgeld that’s a few Euros and not more than 10 percent. I haven’t visited France since 2015. I haven’t visited Germany since 2019.
Do some restaurants in the south of France have a restaurant-set cover charge, to cover bread, perhaps the cleaning of cloth napkins and tablecloths, as one would see in Italy?
I treat the cover charge set out on a menu, and any state- mandated service charge, as separate from a small pour boire in Italy.
I haven’t been to the South of France since 2008 and I don’t remember what I did then. I probably was tipping 10-12 percent as a pour boire on top of the bill on that trip.
The pour boire in my mind is a token for the servers.
It did indeed “cast a shadow.” I was especially disappointed to see this from Petrelle. And I may follow up with the restaurants — both of them. If I do, and if I get responses, I’ll report here.
We have all learned, sometimes from experience , that in Frsnce the customer is not always right.
However, I found an anecdote from Dorie Greenspan particularly insightful. She told of visiting a well regarded cheese shop, engaging staff in making choices for a special meal. On her next visit to the shop, she was asked how she had enjoyed her selection. Pausing for a moment, she gave an honest appraisal, in some instances mentioning disappointment. On her NEXT visit, a staff person called from the back room to attend her, special notice given her request. She was recognized as a knowledgeable client whose opinion was worth attention,
Hi Carole, I just looked back at my hard copy of both bills. The written prompt I saw at both places shows up on neither final bill. I’m now thinking that at one place, the prompt may have been on an initial hard copy bill that was ultimately not left with us. And I’m also having a recollection that in at least one of these two instances the prompt may have been presented electronically, on an enhanced screen of a portable credit card reader. (So much for the certainty/ reliability of eyewitness testimony, even soon after the event!) But in both instances, we certainly received some form written prompt, and indeed, I immediately commented both times to Mo – and we both expressed surprise and some disappointment.
In the meantime, we’ll be curious to see what happens to you this Friday at Petrelle – and in that regard I’ll hold off emailing Petrelle about this issue until after you dine there on Friday.
Jake, I have mentioned having received such a prompt at now defunct Tondo, and, yes, it was on the initial statement provisionaire, but not on the final bill.
Possibly. I see that in the UK fairly regularly in restaurants which don’t have a service charge and the machine will ask “do you want to add a tip”, so the technology is there.
If it is the English language credit card software triggered by American bank card, perhaps not the restaurant’s fault (or choice)? Doesn’t make sense that tip request would have been on one “hard copy” but not another, right? They would have to be bending themselves into a pretzel to produce that kind of paperwork.
I agree that it’s deceptive when a restaurant asks in whatever way for a tip in Paris, as though the service is not included (e.g. please see my diatribe on treatment at the then-recently starred Nicholas Flamel: Beware Nicholas Flamel--Paris) .
Still, I am an American, alors, and I tend to tip well for good/excellent service no matter what side of the “pond” I am on. I figure that no matter how much the waitstaff salaries are in Paris (the answer to this question I have never quite understood), I cannot imagine that they are so high that tips on top of “service” fee would be out of line. And the service in most of the restaurants I go to in Paris really is quite wonderful. Also, since I often dine alone (and can only therefore be eating and paying for one meal), the “service” percentage is necessarily low for that table (usually for two).
But I agree that it should be a choice and not deceptive!
Re: “If it is the English language credit card software triggered by American bank card, perhaps not the restaurant’s fault (or choice)?”
We used the same credit card approximately 30 times for lunches and dinners on this recent trip, and approximately that many times again
most recently in July — all in Paris and in the countryside. And only twice did we get these tip prompts. So it appears that as a general matter, restaurants can and do exercise substantial control over the issue.
I suppose that it could depend on the precise system that each restaurant uses — and the defaults / options that it chooses to employ with regard to credit card transactions. But it does appear to me that some restaurants are indeed “choosing,” and not being forced, to do this.
I use exclusively an American credit card in restaurants and do not recall ever seeing the tip prompt (but if there were one, I might not have noticed it, as only check the charges and the bottom line).
I also have not noticed this as a standard, though I am always asking, as I pay with my Apple Pay, if I can add a tip, and I always can on the machine. Perhaps this has become a standard option (was all I was trying to say, sorry if badly), given how many people pay with their phones or watches? (I am guilty of the latter.) Unlike paying with an actual credit card, I do not have to sign a paper copy when I pay electronically. Often enough I do leave cash for tip, but often enough I add it to my bill electronically.
Also, it used to be (in the early days of electronic payments) that I would have to whisper my tip to the waiter/waitress to add to my bill, and then I would just pay that amount electronically, but that always felt a bit awkward. I do like the option of adding it myself, but can see how having that option might upset some people.
Hi Jake - yes, we’ll be carefully sleuthing the issue on Friday. R usually carefully tucks away the “Document provisoire” with all its itemization bc he knows I often refer to it to remind me of when and what we ate. But we often pay with out phone these days (and in San Francisco generally with my watch), so I’m not sure what final documentation we’ll receive. I think it’s just the little “Carte Bancaire” slip.